The NZXT Phantom chassis is a curious choice. When we first laid our eyes on it, there was something about those awkward angles that never sat right with us. The large chunks of plastic molding simply didn't appeal, and the pink special edition in particular was way too garish for our tastes.
It's true what they say, though, you should never judge a book by its cover. Since its release, the Phantom has gone on to garner critical acclaim, and it has developed into something of a fan favourite among the modding community.
There's clearly more to the Phantom than meets the eye, so we've decided to take a closer look at the second-generation model; the Phantom 410.
Designed for "those wanting Phantom features without the larger size," the 410 is a mid-tower alternative to the existing full-tower option and trims down in two key areas; size and price.
Whereas the original full-tower Phantom measures 222mm x 540mm x 623mm and costs just over £100, the mid-tower Phantom 410 measures 215mm x 516mm x 532 mm and carries a recommended retail price of £84.99. The form factor is certainly more forgiving, and we find the price tag particularly agreeable - it's right in line with Coolermaster's HAF 922 and slightly cheaper than Corsair's Carbide Series 500R.
But what about the looks? Well, the Phantom 410 isn't the most elegant enclosure you'll ever lay eyes on, far from it, but having lived with it for the past week, we've come to enjoy its unique aesthetics. The white-on-black colour scheme works well (it's also available in red or black) and though there are plenty of angles, they're each gently smoothed out to provide an effect that - dare we say it - is actually quite attractive, in a fun, quirky sort of way.
The unusual looks aren't just an attempt to stand out from the crowd, either, as many of the chassis' protrusions are functional and designed to accommodate a greater range of components.
By default, NZXT ships the Phantom 410 with a 120mm front intake, a 120mm exhaust at the rear and a 140mm exhaust up top. The chassis' plastic moulds provide plenty of room for the three pre-installed fans, and there's scope for expansion as provisions have been made for another 120mm front intake (or a single 140mm), a second 140mm top exhaust, a 120mm/140mm side intake and a 120mm/140mm fan on the back of the hard-disk cage.
There's no shortage of air-cooling capacity, and there's also room for a liquid-cooled radiator. Beneath the bulging top panel, NZXT has left space for a 240mm radiator that's up to 30mm thick.
The wealth of configuration options don't reflect the modest £85 price tag. In addition to offering high-end cooling potential, the Phantom 410 touts three 5.25in optical drive bays, six 2.5/3.5in storage bays, seven expansion slots and a side panel that facilitates both a window and a mesh insert.
Up front, the hard-disk and power LEDs are presented as attractive blue strips, and the I/O panel is well equipped with two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, audio and microphone jacks, and a three-speed fan controller. The latter is hooked up to the pre-bundled fans right out of the box, and a further four fans can also be connected using the available three-pin headers.
The Phantom 410 is shaping up to be a convincing package, but what's it really like to work with?